Annette Pritchard, Professor of Tourism at Cardiff Metropolitan University and Director of the Welsh Centre for Tourism Research, in this interview shares her views on tourism and destination branding in highly competitive regions. Annette reveals how the film industry has influenced destination branding in Wales and pays special attention to long-term sustainable visions of place branding.
- The film industry’s impacts on the brand and branding of Wales;
- How online media is transforming the way destinations are presented;
- The trends and challenges of destination branding and marketing in Wales;
- Why place branding should support the sustainable development of destinations.
Annette, do you remember what first attracted your interest in the study of tourism?
Well, I suppose I’ve always had an interest in tourism since I was a child. I grew up on the island of Anglesey (off the coast of North Wales) and in the summer lots of people would come for their two week holiday by the sea.
My path to the academic study of tourism was more convoluted, however, as I took degrees in International Politics and Sociology and then a Masters in Media Studies.
At that time I was working in the research department of the Wales Tourist Board, where I was lucky enough to manage a wide range of projects, exploring issues such as image and perception of destinations, attitudes towards destinations and holiday taking, and marketing effectiveness.
When a lecturing position came up at what is now Cardiff Metropolitan University, I jumped at it and embarked on what has turned out to be a lifelong fascination with tourism. It’s something which you never really switch off from.
Most people look forward to their holiday for their total break from work. For me, I just can’t help thinking about the implications of my holiday for my research interests!
As a scholar with strong background in media studies, what role do you think media representations of places play with regard to their brand? And would you generally consider media coverage an opportunity or potential threat for place branding initiatives?
I’ve always been fascinated by the media and its influence on us. To be honest, I find myself getting really annoyed with media commentators and journalists who belittle degrees in Media (and Tourism for that matter), dismissing them as Mickey Mouse courses, somehow not worthy of study. Would you really dismiss the exploration and understanding of two of our most significant and influential global industries? Relegating them to the margins undermines our ability to examine their reach and impact at any number of levels, from the very conscious to the very subconscious.
Media representations are incredibly important for places. Negative coverage can have serious consequences for a brand’s value. At the same time, the media can provide a huge stimulus to its value.
It’s not surprising that many destinations are fiercely competing for film and TV to be shot there. I think most destination branders would have looked on in envy at the success of Game of Thrones, for instance, and its impact on tourism in Northern Ireland. It’s been very cleverly harnessed to enhance Northern Ireland’s brand value through various campaigns and it’s created its own niche tourism packages as well. Who wouldn’t grin at a ‘Deposit your Swords’ bin in Belfast airport or search for a giant’s print on a deserted Irish beach?
While media exposure through TV series, such as Game of Thrones, provides the opportunity, the destination has to be ready and able to grab that and take it to new and exciting levels, to exploit that potential brand value.
Arguably we are now seeing new forms of film/media tourism evolve, such as scene filming, as people take their iPads and take ‘live’ shots of the actual scene in the place where it was filmed, which they then share on social media. All of this adds to the destination buzz, particularly online. The world of online media is transforming how destinations are presented and imagined.
To be honest, as academics and branding practitioners we are struggling to keep up in terms of social media’s impact on how and what we know about destination branding.